1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!

Custer the American Hero?

Discussion in 'Other Notable Biographies' started by major bill, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. diane

    diane Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2010
    Messages:
    18,947
    Location:
    State of Jefferson
    That's a good read. One thing I've often found a little disturbing in histories of the Indian wars is the mere footnote that so-n-so fought in the CW. The Civil War had a huge impact on what happened in the West and how it shaped the commanders who conducted the wars against the tribes. Cozzens uses his CW background well.
     
    KansasFreestater and Bee like this.

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. Joshism

    Joshism Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    563
    Location:
    Jupiter, FL
    Eric's description of Custer as a "flamboyant man child" seems a good choice of words to me. His Civil War exploits seem underappreciated and overshadowed by LBH and his actions against Native Americans, but he seems like the kind of person I would want to punch in the face if I spent 5 minutes with him anywhere except a battlefield.
     
  4. dlofting

    dlofting Sergeant

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    Messages:
    971
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    ....and as I’ve said before, he underestimated the qualities of the Lakota/Cheyenne soldiers and leadership, but so did Crook at the Rosebud (and for that matter the rest of the US Army at the time).

    IMO, those Lakota/Cheyenne/Arapaho fighters were the best irregular light cavalry the world has ever seen. Picture a mounted soldier, guiding a horse with his knees, while working his repeating rifle, and possibly using the horse’s neck as a shield. That’s some cavalryman.
     
  5. Eric Wittenberg

    Eric Wittenberg Sergeant Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2013
    Messages:
    2,388
    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    Thank you, Bee. It's taken me a lot of years to get to this point. Studying the LBH debacle again has only brought my ambivalence right back to the surface.
     
    KansasFreestater and Eagle eye like this.
  6. E_just_E

    E_just_E 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2014
    Messages:
    4,419
    Location:
    Center Valley, PA
    Most of what I have read regarding Custer has been post-ACW. I think that Custer had a lot of similarities with Stonewall Jackson regarding his interactions with subordinates. Also both were fairly eccentric and selfish (in different kinds of ways; Jackson was much more introspective whereas Custer was more flamboyant.) A lot of disregard for their troops. Matter of fact Custer was court-martialed because of it (and being AWOL) and was suspended for a year (1867-8), before Sheridan restored him. For some weird reason, this does not come up in the general memories regarding Custer. Another thing that is in general missing from recollections, was the fit he threw when the Department of War asked him to resign his commission, instead of taking a leave of absence as he requested, when he wanted to command Benito Juarez' army against Maximillian in Mexico, as a soldier of fortune in 1866.

    Custer was all about Custer, really...
     
  7. Bee

    Bee 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2015
    Messages:
    3,118
    I hope that you may write about what you are experiencing at some time; it helps the rest of us who are much less disciplined about such things. Even as I read and write on this thread, I have to still give myself time-outs to gather my thoughts.
     
  8. Eric Wittenberg

    Eric Wittenberg Sergeant Major Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2013
    Messages:
    2,388
    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    I'm sure that I will. I have to grapple with the x's and o's first, and that's where I think it will really rear its ugly head.
     
    Bee likes this.
  9. diane

    diane Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2010
    Messages:
    18,947
    Location:
    State of Jefferson
    Soldier of fortune overthrowing Maximillian? :D He might have bumped into Forrest trying to do the same thing to set up a new Confederacy!
     
    E_just_E and Bee like this.
  10. Mike Griffith

    Mike Griffith Corporal

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2014
    Messages:
    426
    Most Custer scholars now realize that the Hollywood portrayal of Custer as reckless and irresponsible is simply unwarranted. The last several major books on Custer--such as James Donovan's, Nathan Philbrick's, Bruce Liddic's, and T. J. Stiles' works--all defend Custer and raise serious questions about the actions of his two ranking subordinates: Reno and Benteen.

    Here is my Custer web page:

    http://miketgriffith.com/files/custer.pdf

    Here is my article on Custer's Last Stand:

    http://www.miketgriffith.com/files/custerrecord.htm

    I regard Custer as a hero, both during the Civil War and during the Indian fighting.
     
    FZ11 likes this.
  11. Bee

    Bee 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2015
    Messages:
    3,118
    Duly noted
     
  12. atlantis

    atlantis Sergeant

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    Messages:
    661
    So Custer kills innocent Indian women an children and is a hero, Forrest fights in defense of slavery and is a villain. And people wonder why we southerners defend our confederate heritage, look at the double standard, the US policy toward native peoples was ethnic cleansing.
     
  13. John Winn

    John Winn Captain

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2014
    Messages:
    5,334
    Location:
    State of Jefferson
    I'll probably regret asking, but I really do wonder why you consider Custer a hero "during the Indian fighting." While it's not my opinion, I can see how he might be seen as a hero during the war, but after the war ? What, exactly, did he do to be considered a hero regarding Indians ? I'm not going to argue with you; just want to see what it is that you consider heroic about Custer's fights with the natives.
     
    Sbc, E_just_E and Bee like this.
  14. Mike Griffith

    Mike Griffith Corporal

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2014
    Messages:
    426
    I used to agree with 90% of what you say here. In fact, I used to regard Custer as a war criminal and a reckless commander whose arrogance and rashness got his battalion killed. But my reading over the last couple years has caused me to change my mind.

    I do agree that Forrest has been the victim of a double-standard, but I am concerned that he might have committed war crimes at Fort Pillow. I don't know. I've read a fair amount about Fort Pillow, and I'm not sure what to think.
     
    GELongstreet likes this.
  15. major bill

    major bill Captain Forum Host

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2012
    Messages:
    6,881
    I am not sure "hero" is the right term for Custer's service in the west. He was in the service of the U.S. Army, and was doing as ordered, more or less.
     
    FZ11 likes this.
  16. Mike Griffith

    Mike Griffith Corporal

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2014
    Messages:
    426
    One reason I regard him as a post-war hero is that he spoke out against corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and in the U.S. Army.
     
    1NCCAV and Aussie Billy Sherman like this.
  17. major bill

    major bill Captain Forum Host

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2012
    Messages:
    6,881
    As a Lieutenant Colonel Custer would have not set much policy, but mostly followed policy. Custer would be allowed a fair amount of discretion on how he implemented the policies established by his superiors. So my question is, did the action he took follow his orders or at least the spirit of the orders given him.
     
  18. ct.yankee

    ct.yankee Cadet

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2016
    Messages:
    15
    Hero or Goat? The case can be made he was both. Custer was known by his fellow cadets at the U.S. Military Academy as the "dare-devil of the class" He devoted more energy to pranks than to his academic studies. Custer’s voluminous record of demerits is the largest number ever accumulated by a cadet in the history of West Point. He barely managed to graduate from West Point in 1861 as the lowest-ranking cadet---ranked 34th of 34 cadets.
    Although Custer struggled in the classroom, he excelled on the battlefield. After joining the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry following his graduation, he gained notice for his daring cavalry charges, bold leadership style and tactical brilliance. In June 1863, Custer was promoted to the rank of brigadier general at the age of 23, the Union army's youngest general. He solidified his reputation as the "Boy General" days later at the Battle of Gettysburg when he repelled a pivotal Confederate assault led by J.E.B. Stuart. By the end of the Civil War, Custer had risen to a higher rank (major general) than any of his West Point classmates.
     
    KansasFreestater likes this.
  19. Bee

    Bee 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2015
    Messages:
    3,118
    Temporary rank in Volunteer Army--> he reverted back to Captain after the war, when the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment was created at Fort Riley Kansas, Custer was promoted to the position of Lt. Colonel of the regiment.
     
    E_just_E likes this.
  20. dlofting

    dlofting Sergeant

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    Messages:
    971
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    That is a great question, and one that Custer historians argue about. I`ll try to find the text of Terry`s written order, so you can try to decide for yourself.
     
  21. dlofting

    dlofting Sergeant

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    Messages:
    971
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Here is Terry`s order(s) to Custer

    Headquarters of the Department of Dakota (In the Field)
    Camp at Mouth of Rosebud River, Montana Territory June 22nd, 1876

    Lieutenant-Colonel Custer,
    7th Calvary

    Colonel: The Brigadier-General Commanding directs that, as soon as your regiment can be made ready for the march, you will proceed up the Rosebud in pursuit of the Indians whose trail was discovered by Major Reno a few days since. It is, impossible to give you any definite instructions in regard to this movement, and were it not impossible to do so the Department Commander places too much confidence in your zeal, energy, and ability to wish to impose upon you precise orders which might hamper your action when nearly in contact with the enemy. He will, however, indicate to you his own views of what your action should be, and he desires that you should conform to them unless you shall see sufficient reason for departing from them. He thinks that you should proceed up the Rosebud until you ascertain definitely the direction in which the trail above spoken of leads. Should it be found (as it appears almost certain that it will be found) to turn towards the Little Bighorn, he thinks that you should still proceed southward, perhaps as far as the headwaters of the Tongue, and then turn toward the Little Horn, feeling constantly, however, to your left, so as to preclude the escape of the Indians passing around your left flank.

    The column of Colonel Gibbon is now in motion for the mouth of the Big Horn. As soon as it reaches that point will cross the Yellowstone and move up at least as far as the forks of the Big and Little Horns. Of course its future movements must be controlled by circumstances as they arise, but it is hoped that the Indians, if upon the Little Horn, may be so nearly inclosed by the two columns that their escape will be impossible. The Department Commander desires that on your way up the Rosebud you should thoroughly examine the upper part of Tullock's Creek, and that you should endeavor to send a scout through to Colonel Gibbon's command.

    The supply-steamer will be pushed up the Big Horn as far as the forks of the river is found to be navigable for that distance, and the Department Commander, who will accompany the column of Colonel Gibbon, desires you to report to him there not later than the expiration of the time for which your troops are rationed, unless in the mean time you receive further orders.

    Very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
    E. W. Smith, Captain, 18th Infantry A. A. J. G.
     
    FZ11, leftyhunter and Bee like this.

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Loading...
Similar Threads Forum Date
Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors, $1.99 on Kindle Book & Movie Review Tent Oct 2, 2014
Wow, watched PBS' Custer's Last Stand on the American Experience..... Book & Movie Review Tent Jul 11, 2012
Who was the greatest Cavalier Buford, Custer, Gregg, Stuart, Hampton, Ashby, Forrest, And Why? Soldiers who fought on Horseback: Cavalry Jan 3, 2017
She almost rode with General Custer but was sent to jail Civil War History - General Discussion Dec 3, 2016
Elizabeth Custer Period Civil War Photos & Examinations Nov 28, 2016

Share This Page